WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took a dose of reality to Michigan on Tuesday, saying that thousands of jobs lost to the auto industry’s downturn are not coming back and it is time to prepare for new industries.
Traveling to Michigan, a state hit hard by job losses as Detroit’s Big Three automakers have reeled from the U.S. recession, Obama planned to promote a $12 billion initiative to boost community colleges and increase the graduation rate.
“(The) hard truth is that some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won’t be coming back,” Obama was to say, according to prepared remarks released by the White House.
“They are casualties of a changing economy. And that only underscores the importance of generating new businesses and industries to replace the ones we’ve lost, and of preparing our workers to fill the jobs they create,” Obama will say.
He was to make the remarks during a visit to Macomb County Community College in Warren, Michigan. Macomb County gave rise to so-called “Reagan Democrats” 30 years ago who crossed party lines and helped elect Republican Ronald Reagan.
Obama, a Democrat, is attempting to restore economic growth to the United States at a time when his $787 billion economic stimulus plan is under fire from Republicans because it has failed to stop the jobless rate from rising to 9.5 percent.
A new CBS News poll said Obama’s job approval rating was a strong 57 percent, although that was down six points from last month.
The poll said his approval rating on handling the economy is now 48 percent, while 44 percent disapprove. Last month, Americans approved of his handling of this issue by a margin of 22 points, CBS said.
Talking to reporters in the Oval Office before leaving for Michigan, Obama said the United States is trying to rebound from the most severe recession since the Great Depression, and that the jobless rate probably will get worse before it gets better.
“My expectation is, is that we will probably continue to see unemployment tick up for several months,” he said.
He said he was pleased that General Motors and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy and said if the government had not bailed them out with billions of dollars, “the situation in Michigan, I think it’s fair to say, would be far worse.”
Obama’s 10-year program to boost community college includes a new goal of graduating an additional 5 million students from these schools over the next decade, double the current number of expected graduates.
Education is the often-forgotten third pillar of Obama’s economic plan and has received far less attention than the other two — healthcare reform and renewable energy.
Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers issued a report on the future of the U.S. job market on Monday that was aimed at bolstering the case for more higher education.
“Well-trained and highly skilled workers will be best positioned to secure high-wage jobs, thereby fueling American prosperity,” the report said.
“Occupations requiring higher educational attainment are projected to grow much faster than those with lower education requirements, with the fastest growth among occupations that require an associate’s degree or a post-secondary vocational award,” it said.
There are more than 1,000 community colleges in the United States with more than 6 million students enrolled. Nearly half a million students graduate from community colleges annually.
Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; writing by David Alexander and Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott